Starting the Semester

 There's a lot more to preparing that first day of class than might meet the eye. Naturally you'll need a plan, but there are also significant tasks that should be accomplished BEFORE the first day.

Checklist of Pre-semester tasks

  • Get comfortable with USF's learning management system, Canvas. Visit Digital Learning Resources for guides and USF specific tutorials.
  • Build the syllabus and upload to Canvas.
  • Place any necessary materials on reserve at the library.
  • If teaching in-person, visit your classroom and familiarize yourself with the technology and layout of the room. Take some time to log into computer, making sure you know how to adjust the lights, sound, etc. Reach out to USF IT for assistance getting ready with the classroom tech. Note materials you may need, including dry erase markers, erasers, etc.

Helpful Resources

The following is a list of USF resources useful for getting started teaching at USF.

  • List of relevant USF Policies and Procedures.
  • Final Exam Schedule: Specific timing for final exams is scheduled across for each campus at USF. Dates and times are based on the regular course times, and details are available from the USF Registrar.
    • Per USF Policy, the last week fo classes is designated as a Test Free Week.  The intent of this policy is to establish a one week period of substantial and predictable study time for students.
  • Faculty Class Search: Search for your class status and location with this online tool (be sure to select the proper semester)
  • IT Remote Resources
  • Parking: Get set up with parking pass for any campus before the semester begins.
  • USF Faculty ID Card: You can now apply for your faculty ID card online and pick it up at a location on your home campus.


How to teach a good first day of class

James Lang, author and professor of English at Assumption University is Worchester, MA, compiled a helpful, multi-disciplinary guide to the first day of class. Note: USF has a subscription to the Chronicle of Education that is accessible by registering using your email account.

Additional resources

Building a Lesson Plan

Plan on doing MORE than just a syllabus read-through on the first day (more on this below). In fact, it's best to do a community activity first, then perform some of your "regular" content for the class, and only at the end should you discuss the syllabus.

Lay out the activities and conversations you plan to do on the first day as an outline; do not rely on a PowerPoint slides to "be" your lesson plan. Having a separate piece of paper will better enable you to visualize connections and transitions between the sections as you prepare for the day, as well as help you keep a better overview during the class itself.

Always over-plan. It's much better to have excess activities you didn't get to, than to realize you've raced through the material and now there is extra time with no more planned activities. These "FLEX" activities can always be revisited on a later day as a 'regular' activity.

After you've laid out all the activities, assign the planned minutes to each activity. Aim for twenty minutes or fewer for each item--and consider seeding interactive techniques every few activities (even if they only take 1-2 minutes) to re-energize the participants. Consider this a time to adjust the lesson plan as you pencil in more and more specifics.

Once you are satisfied with the time breakdown, print out a fresh copy of the lesson plan and use a pen to write down the "clock time" for when each activity will start. This will enable you to see better at a glance during the class itself if you are getting ahead or falling behind.


Questions to Ask in Your Department

While many policies and procedures are consistent across campus, there are sometimes significant differences between colleges, departments and programs. Here are some questions it may be best to ask your chair or department representative:

  • Has my paperwork been sent to Human Resources? [The reason this is important: You cannot log in to MyUSF until your paperwork is done and a NetID is created for you.]
  • How many office hours per week should I hold?
  • What are the departmental policies regarding overrides to fill a class beyond its standard enrollment cap?
  • How can I make photocopies for class?
  • Does our department or college provide instructional supplies like dry-erase markers?
  • Do we use Scantrons in our department? If so, which color? Where do we get or buy them? And how do we grade them?
  • Does our department have a document or website explaining how my courses fit into the larger curriculum? You'll want to pay particular attention to curricular goals and to what extent your class includes prerequisites or instills basic skills needed for courses further in the curriculum.]
  • Will I "inherit" a syllabus for my class, or perhaps several previous examples? Is it preferred that I customize the syllabus or leave it alone?
  • Are there particular policies that should be in every syllabus in our department (i.e., about use of technology, or, etc.).
  • Is there a departmental attendance policy that needs to be on the syllabus?
  • Am I required in this department or program to use plus/minus grading, or alternately "flat" grading, or is the choice up to me?
  • Is there a standard breakdown in our department of each grade level (i.e., at what percentage an A- turns into an A)?
  • When are department faculty meetings? Am I expected/encouraged/discouraged to attend?
  • Who does the textbook ordering for our department? What are our internal deadlines?
  • Will I receive an inbox/mailbox in the department?
  • Can I order business cards?